A model to find the best in someone, including yourself

[This post is part of a series on “Mental models and beliefs: an exercise to identify yours.” If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
Today’s belief helps overcome a challenge in helping someone’s growth. It also helps you shine as a leader or mentor.
When you lead or mentor someone or work to improve yourself, it helps to track progress, but you often can’t. You can for external things, like how fast they run 100 meters, how they scored on a test, how much they increased revenues, etc.
When you develop someone as a person, you can’t always see the development externally. Especially with important things like emotional intelligence and self-awareness. When you coach someone you see clients change, but often can’t quantify or specify how.
How do you focus on and motivate internal growth? How do you get excited about something you can’t see and measure?
A quote from Michelangelo about his sculpture, David, helps focus me. The context is about art, but it applies equally to leadership and personal development.
Michelangelo's David
How do you go from a slab of marble to such a sculpture? Is it a stretch to imagine you and someone you lead or mentor’s personal development and growth like finding a David like that inside a slab of marble?

A model for finding someone’s value: Michelangelo on carving David: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

We have inside us a freer person — an angel, if you want, or a David like Michelangelo’s — that gets covered up. That freer person is friendly to everyone, helps people, is spontaneous, and so on.
Society, family, school, and so many social forces tell us who to be. After you get hurt you learn to protect yourself. No matter how much you try to avoid becoming what they want you to become for whatever their reason, some of their influence sticks to you.
The result: layers of identity, like shells around you, protecting you from the outside world, making you seem something different from what feels most natural to you.
By the time you meet most people, their angel, their David has been covered up. To the extent your body is the physical manifestation of your thoughts and beliefs (which you know I believe), you meet this, which has the David you know inside, only covered up:
Michelangelo's David, Fat
Might as well start from a slab if you want to find the angel within!
You don’t have to be covered with fat to cover up your angel. Nor does being fat mean your angel is covered up. Fat isn’t bad if you like it on you. But for those who don’t like fat on them, it represents that they’ve covered their bodies like we all cover that innocent part within us.
But you can reach the angel within. The point is you don’t have to try to change them.
Learning to lead or to bring out the best in others often means identifying these caked-on external layers and removing them. When you do you release a core of you that feels and acts more naturally, not trying to copy others or avoid getting hurt.
This identity is their angel you can help set free.
When I work with a client or lead someone, I assume they have an identity inside that, when not covered up, will behave naturally and freely. If you help identify and release this part of them, they will forever feel grateful.
I think of these shells like when you get caught in the rain in the morning and your socks get wet and never get the chance to dry. All day long you have wet socks. At the end of the day when you finally take them off you realize they were annoying you all day but you didn’t notice. Taking them off feels so good, though it partly reminds you of how long you endured misery.
If you help someone take off their wet socks, they’ll value you forever.

When I use this belief

I use this belief when working on improving myself or others in something not obviously measurable, to assume they have an angel. My goal isn’t to change them but help relieve them of the burdensome beliefs that constrain them from behaving more naturally.

What this belief replaces

This belief replaces trying to change people with giving them space to share who they are underneath, what they want to release from those shells, and supporting them. Or yourself.

Where this belief leads

This belief leads to living more freely, helping people grow and develop, and having less protection or reactive behavior.
It leads to accepting and celebrating others, not trying to change them, and them seeing you as someone who helps them become more themselves, more free, and less what others tell them to be, less protected.

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